My grandma is 101-and-a-half. (With centenarians, like toddlers, you have to be exact.) Most likely, she is NYU’s oldest living alumnus. She graduated with a degree in Journalism during the Depression, back when Journalism was an actual career people had. Born in what’s now Bed Stuy, she has lived in the same cushy DC two-bedroom high-rise condo for several decades, with a view out onto the pool. From the time my grandpa died in the early aughts until this past October, she had only MSNBC for company. Now she has a live-in nurse. Still, she reads, and knits, and does her exercises, and she could teach me lots of lessons about life and finances, if only she remembered things anymore.
My grandpa handled the money over their 55+ years of marriage. Once he was gone, my mother had to teach my grandma how to use an ATM. Money in the abstract makes her nervous: she has very little sense of what things cost anymore, prefers to spend as little as possible, frets about whether she has enough. She does. Though my grandpa was born in a tenement building on the Lower East Side, in a family so large and poor he didn’t have a bed to sleep in let alone a bedroom, he too went to college — CCNY, baby! — and then to war and to work, hoisting his own family into the middle class, and then further up, because why stop there?
What he made, he invested, and the stock market treated him well. Though there was that one time he had the opportunity to buy a plot of land next to what was going to be Disney World and he was like, “A movie-themed amusement park? Why would anyone think that crazy idea is going to take off?” But the same gene that kept him from making the occasional good risky investment kept him from making lots of bad ones, too.
So, let’s say an elderly relative gave you a check for five figures as part of her estate planning, essentially an advance on your inheritance. Not a hugely extravagant amount of money, but quite a goodly sum, enough for one whole month of full-time long-term care insurance.
SIDENOTE: long-term care insurance is so hilariously expensive it seems insane that it could save you money in the long term, and yet Roz Chast’s new graphic memoir about the decline and fall of both of her aged parents, culminating in having to put them in a home, would scare any reasonable person into scrambling desperately to secure some kind of safety net for themselves.
Five figures! It’s not a prize, like the Pulitzer. It’s not salary. It’s not fun money, because it’s given in the spirit of Thinking About the Future. Obviously it’s not Quit Your Job and Retire money but it’s not nothin’. What do you do with it? Buy real estate, or ice cream sandwiches, or both? Invest in something? What? Put it in your IRA, or is that too boring and conservative?
Don’t worry, my fella and I are seeing an actual Financial Planner on Friday and so will get expert advice then, but in the meantime I’m curious. WWYD?